Propane Tank Monitoring - 500 gallon


(Tom) #1

Does anyone know of any devices, or ways to monitor the propane level in a tank? I’m not speaking of the barbecue style tank, but the type to heat your home. They are usually 500 gallons. Thanks.


Oil Tank monitoring?
(Jeffrey Denning) #2

Not off hand, sorry :frowning:
What would you want to monitor?


(Tom) #3

I’m looking to monitor my propane level. Right now I have to go out to the tank and check the gauge. I want to monitor it through ST


(Paul) #4

Lots of good info in this thread:

http://board.homeseer.com/showthread.php?t=139022

It looks like it’s possible… you’ll have to swap out your gague for a “remote ready” one (if yours isn’t already), and find the remote sensor to install. Then rig up some ST-compatible input.

So if you’re willing to get your hands dirty, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to get it working.


(John Rucker) #5

I have the same need. I read about a device that thumped a tank and used its natural harmonics to determine the amount of material inside. However, I have no clue where I saw that. Maybe it will ring a bell with someone. I hope I didn’t dream it??


(Chuckles) #6

Was it this one…?


(John Rucker) #7

Yep that is what I was thinking about. Now has anyone used it with a 500 gallon propane tank. It needs to work outside and my tank is buried with only the gauge and fill nozzle above ground.


(Chuckles) #8

“barred” = buried?

If so, is it actually buried (with soil pressing against the sides of the tank) or is it standing free in a pit and roofed over?

If it is actually buried with soil against the sides, I suspect this would rule out this type of sensor. The soil would likely be very effective in dampening any “ringing” which the sensor is listening for.

Their Kickstarter project ( https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1044009888/notion-be-home-even-when-youre-not/posts ) was successfully funded back in October but they’ve not yet shipped. I suggest you contact them to sound out (no pun intended) the validity of your use case and what options they’ll be providing for integrating with other systems such as SmartThings, IFTTT, etc.

Also, take note of the restrictions re: temperature and battery life. How cold does it get where you are?


(John Rucker) #9

It is buried in sand with about 2 feet of dirt on top of the sand, tar covers the tank’s metal surfaces except the very top. I would still give it a try as long as I can connect it directly to metal. The tank’s natural resonance will change as the propane level changes regardless of what is touching the side. There must be some type of calibration process??

But I don’t see it being a good solution simply because its not intended for outdoor use or use in a hazardous environment. I’m sure it needs to be rated for an explosive environment after all propane is in the class IIA explosive gas group http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electrical_equipment_in_hazardous_areas. I wold think they need to be rated for that to even attach it to a barbecue tank.


(Tom) #10

I am working on the same thing, except my tank gauge is Rochester R3D ready. You can buy a 0-90 fuel reader to put on the gauge from amazon for $75. Then what we would need is a ST sensor that would read it (ie 0 ohm empty to 90 ohm full Just like a car fuel gauge).
Now I am thinking about installing a marine type gauge in the house that is hardwired to the propane tank sensor. This gauge has an alarm out that can be preset. Just have to find a way to connect the alarm out to ST, then I can at least get alerts when the tank is too low. Maybe use the Fortress MIMO some how?? Everything could be powered off of the 24v lead on my thermostat.Still working on it…It would just be better if I had a Z-wave sensor that could measure ohm drop and correlate that to level measurement.


(John Rucker) #11

Would you be interested in a ZigBee device that could read 0 to 90 ohms and report the value over the analog cluster?


(Tom) #12

Yes, but I am curious how it would be applied. Will it work with smart things? Will there be an app to meter how full it is? Ideally z-wave would be nice, but I am open to anything. Was really hoping the "tank utility " product would have become available, but it didn’t reach the kickstarter goal.
Let me know what you got!


#13

It can be done, but don’t try to do it yourself. You are adding an electrical device next to a propane tank. There’s a reason your tank is buried in sand and it’s not as a theft deterrent. :wink:. In many cities in the US, you must have a licensed LP technician install this type of device, to keep from blowing up the neighbors.

Ok, here’s what has to happen.

  1. the tank must be in excellent condition,
  2. the gauge must be “remote ready.” There will be a label and slot. This is what allows you to attach a transmitter. If the dial is not already remote ready, you can have just the dial replaced with one that is.
  3. add a certified safe transmitter specifically designed for this purpose. Don’t try to repurpose a motion sensor or pressure sensor or whatever. You are dealing with batteries and flammables. The transmitter will probably be zigbee. It may be called " cellular," but that’s usually in the Zigbee range, it doesn’t mean it sends sms messages.

Steps 1 - 3 may need to be done by a licensed LP technician. Your local propane supplier should know and may also sell the remote ready gauge and transmitter. Or the technician may.

  1. get the receiver to recognize the transmitter. This part varies, is usually done at a distance from the tank, and may not require a technician. The information sent by the transmitter usually looks something like an outdoor thermometer (not thermostat) or an air pressure sensor. Smart Things may be able to read it, it just depends.

This setup is definitely available, but typically costs about $275. Certainly devices certified to be safe for this use cost a lot more than a typical motion sensor.

There is a quirky propane tank monitor but it’s intended for gas barbecues, only monitors tiny tanks, and runs through batteries about every 3 weeks.

Any wifi based device will also burn through batteries quickly. Also, they can get hot. :fearful: Most remote ready transmitters use zigbee, much better battery life.

So step 1 is to check with your propane supplier to see what’s available in your area and what the code requirements are for installation.


(John Rucker) #14

Do you have a link to the kick starter that didn’t get funded? The device I have in mind would talk with SmartThings and you would be able to see the tank level on your smart phone. No device exist that does this that I know of just dreaming for now.


(Amauri Viguera) #15

I looked into this as well for a while, but for now I’m just sitting back and looking at all the options. I currently use fuel oil, which wouldn’t work with any propane-specific in-tank solution. However, as I’m planning on moving to a new house which uses propane, I’ve become more and more interested in this.

I know TankUtility had something in the works, but it was only a concept / pre-order deal for now. It’s supposed to be a battery-powered WiFi device that uses the float assembly to measure fuel levels, then it would notify you. It was also priced reasonably (under $200) and it’s certified for outdoor use (-20°F).

Centeron and a couple of other companies have in-tank solutions that would read the levels then send you an SMS message, and they could be remotely configured as far as frequency of reporting, etc. Those tend to be a lot pricier, but even getting information about the technology or the price seems to be a pain.

There are options out there, that’s for sure… and if it’s hard to find something in particular then maybe that’s an opportunity for someone to come up with something… :smile:


#16

WiFi devices run physically hot and eat through batteries. That’s what happened to Lockitron–kickstarter Wifi lock got funded, went to market, and they found out the reason there wasn’t already a wifi lock (besides obvious security issues) was homeowners with 3 or 4 people living there screaming about battery life. Their second generation, Bolt, removed the Wifi and went just to Bluetooth.

http://help.lockitron.com/article/95-whats-bolt-and-how-will-my-lockitron-order-change

Physics count. :wink: There’s a lot of stuff on kickstarter that’s technically possible, but not practical. Battery powered WiFi sensors almost all fall into this category.

Centeran is pretty well known and looks well engineered. The device itself doesn’t send text. It signals a monitoring service, and THAT sends text. I think the device is under $300 and you pay about $15/month for the monitoring service. Its intended market is propane suppliers who put the devices in the customer’s tanks and then use the monitoring info to schedule the delivery trucks. Typically the customer gets charged less than $10/month for the service, but they don’t get the messages, the delivery service does.

Again, though, I’d talk to propane suppliers in your area and see what they know about/offer.

FWIW…


(Tom) #17

www.tankutility.com is the link for that. I understand that they are still moving forward and will be available this year.


(Nick) #18

Thanks for the interest in our product. There’s some really good info in this thread.

We are still moving forward. Interest has picked up since we ran our kickstarter. Recent cold temps may have had something to do with that!

Our product leverages WiFi for connectivity. While the power consumption is fairly high while WiFi is on, we’ve got a pretty good solution of turning off our device for most of the day to take quick readings and communicate those to our server.

We’ve built our app on a rest API, so with a little work we could integrate with SmartThings. Please express your interest so we can prioritize that on our roadmap. Cheers!


(Nick) #19

Since there was some interest in our propane tank monitor, I wanted to make sure you know you can order through our website.

Also, we’re very close to an fuel oil monitor, so please sign up for our newsletter if you have interest.

Thanks for your support!


(King) #20

Nick - Have you seen or worked on any integration to smartthings yet?